There’s a couple of things I’ll never understand: why I have to buy a DVD series 4 episodes at a time (thank god for flatpacks, is all I can say), and what possesses a licensing company to change the more or less literal translation of a series title from Perfect Girl Evolution to The Wallflower when there was nothing wrong with the original in the first place. Seemed to me that ‘Perfect Girl Evolution’ was fairly descriptive of this kooky My Fair Lady inspired show, but what would I know, eh? I’m not even in this show’s demographic, on account of the fact that wacky, ‘bishounen’-riddled parody anime tends to make me want to shoot myself only marginally less than wacky, gratuitous fan-service anime (although, am I talking about the same thing here? Never mind).
Wallfower isn’t of course as bad as I just made it out to be. Title aside, it is crazy and pretty funny, but unfortunately that’s all it more or less is. There’s a little depth – not as much as you might expect – surrounding themes of appearance, self-worth and books by their covers, and the parodying of the ‘bishounen’ stereotypes in shoujo mainstream is ironically amusing. One gets the feeling that the original manga creator perhaps got just a little sick and tired of all the hearts and flowers in girls’ stories and decided it was high time for a bit of a shake-up.
What better vehicle to do that than through a drab, gloomy, j-horror obsessed anti-girl. Sunako, often rendered as a pudgy little doll rather than in a more realistic way, isn’t some diamond in the rough; she’s not Cinderella waiting for her prince and she’s not some actually-attractive-in-an-ambiguous-way tomboy either. She’s a normal looking girl with a fairly weird personality and about as much self-esteem as anyone who doesn’t work as a model or a movie star for a living. She’s stubborn and set in her ways, making her not only difficult to save but actively resistant to it and she’s not about to change just because a bunch of hot guys are paying her attention, which is possibly the key reading here, if you felt like going that far. This show isn’t supposed to be about making Sunako into a ‘perfect girl’; it’s about coming to the realisation that in her own way, she’s already perfect.
Considering the alarmingly widespread stereotype of the childlike, demure Japanese woman who cooks, cleans, is soft-spoken and well mannered in every way, this idea must be somewhat revolutionary. Or it would be if this story was at all serious, but it’s not, which is probably a good thing. If this show had been serious, Sunako’s ugly duckling outlook on life probably would have forced her to take a few too many of her aunt’s Valium before the first episode was even really over, surrounded by that many seemingly vacuous, attractive men.
Instead, Sunako’s attitude and antics are designed to get laughs, with the hive-mind reactions of the vacuous boy-cast and the expressive, caricatured animation style picking up any slack. Added to that the ironies of the genre tropes – random flowers, sparkling with light, sudden inexplicable changes in costume or scenery and glowing for no apparent reason, and this is one show impossible to take seriously. And fair enough. The Wallflower isn’t trying to change anyone’s life, or make anyone think; it’s just being who and what it is – a wacky anime series – and you know what they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Pity the same doesn’t go for titles.